On Monday, the NHL announced that it will not participate in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. This news is a big blow to fans, players, and some of the owners around the league.
Overall, the league does not see a benefit with going to the Olympics. Most of the clubs do not want to send their players for fear of injuries. League executives and owners do not see a benefit in shutting down the NHL season for over 2 weeks.
With the International Olympic Committee not paying for the NHL’s travel and insurance costs in the next Olympics, owners and league executives are very hesitant to send star players half way around the globe in questionable conditions. This is a legitimate concern by those involved.
Another major concern with the Olympics is the viewership of the event. With the next Olympics taking place in PyeongChang, the games would be occurring in the early morning hours. Are hockey fans in North America going to even watch games that could be taking place at 3 AM?
IS THERE STILL HOPE FOR THE NHL TO BE INVOLVED IN THE OLYMPICS?
While the recent news is crushing, I feel there is still a glimmer of hope. The NHL could be using this tactic to get more from the International Olympic Committee. There is no reason why they should not pay for the players to travel. The players must have reasonable accommodations if they are going to travel around the world to play in these games.
There is still time that things could be worked out. However, things must be worked out before the NHL officially releases next season’s schedule in June. While time is limited, all hope is not lost.
NHL OWNERS AND PLAYERS ARE NOT ALL IN AGREEMENT
One player that has openly talked about going to the Olympics is Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin and several other Russian players are likely to go to the Olympics no matter what.
Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has stated in the past that he supports Alex Ovechkin and his decision to go to the Olympics. It seems like Leonsis is not bothered by players going to the Olympics, but other owners around the league do not share the same mindset.
Ovechkin has said multiple times he’ll go to the Olympics no matter what. Leonsis has said he’ll be supportive.
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) April 3, 2017
What is going to happen if some owners let their players go to the Olympics? How will players who have not played in the Olympics react? How will a player like Connor McDavid react on the NHL not going to the Olympics? McDavid is a proud star Canadian player who has not had the chance to play for Olympic gold. If stars like Ovechkin and McDavid go to the Olympics, will they carry a strong following of other players with them?
How does an owner like Pittsburgh’s Mario Lemieux really feel about the Olympic decision? He is an owner who has a hockey background. Lemieux has played in the Olympics before. How could he deny his talented Russian star Evgeni Malkin from attending the Olympics? How can he deny his talented Canadian star Sidney Crosby from defending his Olympic gold?
WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?
I have always been a fan of the Olympics because I think it provides great exposure for the game of hockey. There is no greater honor for a professional athlete than having the opportunity of representing his or her country on the Olympic stage.
Each side has valid points about participation in the Olympics. I agree with the NHL executives that shutting down the league for 2 weeks does hurt in some areas, I agree with owners that players risk injuries when they play in international tournaments, and I agree with players that representing one’s country is a special honor.
I feel the NHL should still go to the Olympics. The excitement and the pageantry that the Olympics brings to any sport is unmatched anywhere else. The Olympics do not happen very often and every professional athlete cherishes the opportunity to participate in them.
The NHL and NHLPA are going to have to find common ground somewhere. Some players will go to the Olympics no matter what. I do not believe that every owner is against attending the Olympics. If some owners feel that it is okay that their players should go to the Olympics, then they should have the right to send players from their clubs to the Olympics. Players should not be denied playing for their respective countries.
If some owners do not want their players to go to the Olympics, then those clubs should handle matters internally with their players. The NHL does not need to be involved with every club’s decisions with their players.
I have always enjoyed the Olympics and do not know anyone who has not. There must be some common ground between league executives, owners, and players and there should be some sort of agreement with everyone involved. If there was agreement in the past, it can happen in the future.
By: George Foussekis